Hawaii's recent bout of gummy weather isn't just causing discomfort among residents and visitors. It's also resulted in a potentially sticky situation for elections officials on the Big Island.
According to Elections Program Administrator Pat Nakamoto, dozens of absentee ballots have been replaced on the Big Island because humid weather is causing return envelopes to become glued shut before voters can place their ballots inside.
"Up to this point we've replaced approximately 50 voters' return envelopes and secret ballot envelopes," Nakamoto said Tuesday in a phone interview with KITV4.
Nakamoto said the issue isn't new, but with the recent passage of tropical systems through the state, it appears more return envelopes are being damaged by humidity than in years past.
"It does seem to be occurring more for the 2014 election," she said. "We've noticed that most of the calls that are coming in are coming in from the Puna District."
Some Big Island voters have expressed concern their votes would not be counted if return envelopes were taped shut, or appeared tampered with. However Nakamoto said election officials are well aware of the issue and say tape or no tape, all absentee ballots will be tallied. Still, each voter must judge the condition of their return envelope and decide whether it will be deemed acceptable by the county.
"If the envelope is torn beyond repair where taping it is not possible, then they should contact our office and we will replace the ballot," said Nakamoto. "But their votes will be counted."
Elections officials in Honolulu, Maui County and Kauai said as of Tuesday morning they had not encountered any issues with return envelopes becoming glued shut because of humid weather. However, another bout of moist weather may be on its way as Tropical Depression Genevieve passes south of the Hawaiian Islands.
So far 163,504 absentee ballots have been mailed out statewide, with the majority of those, 113,000, on Oahu. The Big Island has mailed out 22,554 absentee ballots, while Maui County and Kauai have mailed out 18,598 and 9,352 respectively. As of Tuesday 52,300 absentee ballots had been returned by voters: 6,484 on the Big Island; 35,761 in Honolulu; 3,947 on Kauai; and 6,108 on Maui County.
Meanwhile, the state Office of Elections says corrections have been made to prevent a shortage of ballots at 232 polling sites across the state during the Aug. 9 primary. During the 2012 general election at least 51 polling sites ran short of ballots or ran out altogether.
"We didn't track as well as we should have," said Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago. "If we had tracked our ballot usage, then some of those things could have been alleviated and eliminated. We're making sure that we track our usage more accurately and pay more attention to that."
The primary election will utilize 4,000 volunteers across all four counties, but undoubtedly some of those who have signed up for the one-day job will be no-shows. Nago said his office will continue to accept volunteers as the primary election approaches. The average pay for a precinct worker is $85.
To find out more about volunteering opportunities for the primary or general election, contact the following offices:
County of Hawaii: (808) 961-8277
County of Maui: (808) 270-7749
County of Kauai: (808) 241-4800
Office of Elections (Oahu): (808) 453-8683